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12 December 2013 @ 05:56 pm
Exalted minus Exalted: Initial Thoughts  
I haven't written a gaming entry in a while, but I did mention I'd been working on an Exalted game in my spare time, or at least the skeleton of one. I've already got three games going (though all on a rather uneven schedule), but I am a serial tinkerer. Some people make jewelry, some people make video game mods, I mess with tabletop RPGs.

Exalted already has the skeleton and muscles of a sword and sorcery world with a wuxia and Bronze Age epic skin layered over the top, so it's not even that difficult to strip that away and the Exalted with it. It's true that a lot of the canon details of the world don't make sense without the presence of the Exalted, but one of the things I've learned in years of playing RPGs is that typically no one cares. Minor details of the backstory are the kind of thing that people argue about in online forums--whether the Unconquered Sun is a dick, somewhat neglectful, or has some kind of plan; why the Scarlet Empress is so old; whether sorcery is a long con by the Primordials; how incompetent is Chejop Kejak anyway, and so on--but unless they're the focus of the game, they don't usually come up at the table. And especially in a mortals game, it doesn't matter how the Primordials were defeated--just that they were. It doesn't matter where the deathlords come from, just that they exist.

A lot of mechanical issues go away too. The Elder problem and the attendant existence of Creation-Slaying Oblivion Kick. The way that Abyssals are just broken copies of Solars. Paranoia Combat. The basic system once you strip away the hundreds of exception-based Charms is pretty simple, and combat and social conflict are the major subsystems that require doing anything other than "roll Attribute + Skill, count successes."

Another benefit is that a mortals game keeps the focus low. In the world-spanning Solar game I ran, the focus began at a more down-to-earth level, since almost all the characters were from a small village and had local concerns, but as their personal power grew, their interests did too, and eventually they were crossing Creation on a repaired First Age airship and deciding the fate of nations. There's nothing wrong with a game like that, and it is default game that most people think of when they think of Exalted, but having run that game for years and getting interested in more down-to-earth games as time has gone on, I'd rather not run it again.

Also, quite a few of the interesting elements of the Exalted setting come more to the fore in a more down-to-earth game. The god of the local river or grove of trees is a more interesting character when the PCs can't just casually beat them into the ground, which is also true of any local mortal authorities. All the wild animals and pseudo-magical predators become worthwhile foes. The long distances actually matter. The various barbarian tribes and lesser Fair Folk and other sentient foes are real threats. And so on.

More in future posts.
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
Current Music: Watch Out for Fireballs podcast
q99q99 on December 13th, 2013 11:37 am (UTC)
I find Exalted most interesting at either the minor-mystical being or dragon blooded level, personally.
dorchadas: Pile of Dicedorchadas on December 13th, 2013 06:52 pm (UTC)
If I can't get my Game of Clans L5R/Game of Thrones mashup off the ground, running a DB game was my second choice for that thematic mix. :)